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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 January, 2005, 09:02 GMT
Muted goodbye to Chinese reformer
Mourner outside Babaoshan cemetery in Beijing
The ceremony was strictly controlled by authorities
Hundreds of people have attended a tightly controlled funeral service in Beijing for purged Chinese Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang.

Mourners filed past Zhao's body and paid their respects, before his cremation at the Babaoshan cemetery.

Afterwards the authorities issued their first official comment on him for 15 years, citing "serious mistakes" in his handling of the 1989 student protests.

The obituary, however, recognised Zhao's contribution to economic reform.

The funeral was attended by China's fourth-highest communist party leader, Jia Qinglin.

But dissidents and government officials known to be sympathetic to him were forbidden to leave their homes.

Police checked people's identities and denied entry to anyone not on an officially-approved guest list.

The measures highlight Beijing's unease over Zhao, who died earlier this month.

He was ousted in 1989 for opposing the Tiananmen Square crackdown, and spent the last 15 years of his life under house arrest.

Saturday's funeral was a small affair compared to the lavish events held in the past to celebrate the lives of other former leaders.

Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery is Beijing's main resting place for national heroes.

Strict guest list

Zhao died on 17 January at the age of 85.

The news has barely been reported in the Chinese state media, and the funeral took place on the day when public attention was focused on the first non-stop flights for 55 years between China and Taiwan.

1989 TIANANMEN EVENTS
Zhao Ziyang, 19 May 1989
15 April: Reformist leader Hu Yaobang dies
22 April: Hu's memorial service. Thousands call for faster reforms
13 May: Students begin hunger strike as power struggle grips Communist Party
15 May: Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visits China
19 May: Zhao makes tearful appeal to students in Tiananmen Square to leave
20 May: Martial law declared in Beijing
3-4 June: Security forces clear the square, killing hundreds

There were no eulogies, possibly because of a dispute between the family and the government over how he should be remembered.

The BBC's Louisa Lim in Beijing says relatives have refused to accept that he did anything wrong while in office.

Zhao's widow, Liang Boqi, did not attend the funeral because of poor health.

Those who did attend appeared deeply moved by the experience.

"My heart is heavy," Communist Party historian Shi Yijun told Reuters news agency. "I did not expect so many people to show up."

Several dissidents, including Zhao's former aide Bao Tong, were thought to have been under house arrest to prevent them from going to the funeral.

"There's no way I'm getting out of here," another dissident, Ren Wanding, told the Associated Press from his Beijing home.

When reporters telephoned Ding Zilin, the leader of a group called Tiananmen Mothers - made up of women who lost their children in the 1989 crackdown - loud interference interrupted the call.

"Everyday I tell the plainclothes officers outside my home that I want to go [to the funeral]," Ding Zilin told an AFP reporter before the line was cut.

Since his death, many Chinese have found themselves being prevented from publicly remembering their former leader. Several mourners are reported to have been beaten by police.

The only large-scale memorial events have been held outside mainland China.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See how the Chinese reacted when Zhao was laid to rest



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